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Irving Mill Redux (closed)

February 11th, 2009 · No Comments


Pork. Pig. Swine. No, I’m not calling you names; I’m describing the foundation, the essence really, of Ryan Skeen’s menu at Irving Mill.

When I last dined at Irving Mill, the kitchen was under the tutelage of John Schaefer. The meal was enjoyable, but too many lukewarm reviews spurred a helm change. Enter Ryan Skeen. Formerly of Resto, Skeen is renowned in omnivore circles for his burger and porkified dishes. A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Irving Mill to see if Skeen was worth squealing about.

Irving Mill’s burger is a magnificent compilation of beef and pork. Fatback, beef cheek, and aged flap steak are all ground together for a truly extraordinary taste. Every glorious bite is worth its weight in saturated fat. It’s also worth every penny. (At $15, it’s extraordinarily priced.)

The soggy potato wedges that accompany this masterpiece are an embarrassment beyond comprehension. There’s definitely a fryer in the kitchen. And, definitely a lot of lard. That doesn’t leave room for a lot of excuses.

We stayed in the pigpen for a couple more “bites:” the Salt & Pepper Ribs and the Pork Toast. The ribs, sweetened and spiced with soy and sugar, are deep fried. Despite their crust-like exterior, the meat dutifully separates from the bone.

From its description, the Pork Toast sounds ingenious. Its appearance and flavor, however, failed to impress. Square pillows of mashed pork-jowls are deep fried and topped with egg salad and caviar. The toasts look like miniature potato knishes from a plastic bag in the frozen food aisle; that’s also how they tasted.

Skeen’s pork-colored glasses even shade some of the fish dishes. The Hamachi is decorated with crispy slivers of chorizo and bits of grapefruit. The cleanness of the fish created an ideal palate for the salt and citrus foils.

The Crudo of Fluke, adorned with beets, grapes, and pecans, was not nearly as triumphant. The only way I can aptly describe it, is funky, and not in a good way. My dining companions deemed it inedible.

The Pistachio Crusted Snapper, other than a tasty helping of Ratatouille Panzanella, was dull. Dare I suggest the addition of pork?

The desserts were swine-free, but sinful. The parfait, served in a bountiful glass, layers banana ice cream with macaroons, vanilla custard, and chocolate. It’s smooth. It’s crunchy. It’s sweet. The warm pecan tart with brown butter ice cream and Wild Turkey caramel sauce was worthy of admiration.

If you go for the burger and stay for dessert, you’ll leave pot-bellied and happy.

Irving Mill
116 E. 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-1600

Neighborhood: Union Square

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